It’s January, and you know what that means: Everyone you know is joining a gym, or attending the gym after months of being missing in action. What you may not think about when you use your gym’s locker room or showers is protecting your feet — namely, from athlete’s foot.
A fungal infection that usually results in itching, stinging and burning, according to the National Institutes of Health, athlete’s foot can easily be passed from person to person in communal showers, pools and, of course, that lovely rug on the locker room floor.
How do you know if you have athlete’s foot? Besides the itching, stinging and burning between your toes or on the soles your feet, you may experience itchy blisters, cracking or peeling skin and dryness on the bottoms or sides of your feet. Wearing closed shoes — particularly those that are lined with plastic — and having wet or sweaty feet may cause the fungal infection, which thrives in warm, moist areas, according to the NIH. And because it is contagious, contact with an infected person’s shoes, socks or stockings can put you at risk.
Luckily, athlete’s foot is easily treatable with over-the-counter medications, usually in the form of an ointment, lotion, powder or spray, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some of these medications may include butenafine, clotrimazole, miconazole, terbinafine or tolnaftate. These can be found in such brands as Lotrimin, Lamisil and Tinactin. If these treatments fail to get rid of the condition after two to four weeks, or the fungus returns consistently, it’s best to contact a doctor for prescription-strength oral or topical medication.
Hopefully you’ll never experience the annoyance of athlete’s foot for yourself. To keep the fungus at bay, here’s some advice from both the NIH and the Mayo Clinic on how you can help prevent even getting athlete’s foot in the first place: